Words by Paul Kerr :: Images by Michael Saba

17th Annual Warren Haynes Christmas Jam :: 12.17.05 :: Asheville Civic Center :: Asheville, NC

17th Annual Warren Haynes Christmas Jam
12.17.05 :: Asheville, NC
If music truly matters, then this is what it's all about. For the 17th consecutive year, Warren Haynes put together an all-star cast of friends to help celebrate the holiday spirit with a gigantic jam dedicated to Habitat for Humanity. If music really does have a healing spirit, if the notes actually do have the ability to create community, if the sounds somehow propel us to thinking beyond ourselves, then no embodiment could be more pure of heart than the Christmas Jam.

Last year's Jam raised almost $100,000 for charity, and the all-time mark is quickly approaching half a million dollars. That's an awful lot of plywood to help keep families warm in the western Carolina mountains and beyond. None of the artists get paid beyond basic expenses, creating a deep reservoir of commitment to the notion of celebration for a cause greater than ourselves. There really does seem to be a different feeling in the air at the Christmas Jam. Something happens to the collective spirit when you know your deeds are rippling through the community with positive effects. And in years past, when they've occasionally brought onstage, the recipients of the homes built by Habitat for Humanity, well, it isn't too often you see people holding back tears at a rock show.

Patterson Hood :: Christmas Jam :: 12.17 :: Asheville, NC
The Christmas Jam sold out earlier than usual this year, with all 7,200 tickets gone by the beginning of December. I think most of us can agree that 2005 was a pretty strange year. (Perhaps this year the show should have been called the Warren Haynes Non-Denominational Non-Offensive Holiday Jam.) So what better way to bid it a fond (or not so fond) adieu than to gather in a dark room filled with weirdoes to dance and sing and laugh together?

The show opened at 7 p.m., which is practically the crack of dawn to a rock star. "How's it going? It sure is good to see you," said Haynes as he welcomed the crowd to the start of a very long evening. He opened up the show with the endlessly poignant "Soulshine" before being joined by Edwin McCain on additional acoustic guitar for a sublime rendition of Seal's "Crazy." Haynes's delicately propulsive soloing perfectly underscored McCain's choppy rhythms as they turned in a gorgeous performance on this surprising cover. Kevn Kinney from Drivin' N' Cryin' rounded out the acoustic trio for a rollicking "Coming Back Around" and an emotionally charged cover of Bob Dylan’s timeless "I Shall be Released."

Hood & Schools :: Christmas Jam :: 12.17 :: Asheville, NC
Next up was a supergroup billed as "Patterson Hood & Friends," which in reality was 3/5 of Drive-By Truckers with Dave Schools from Widespread Panic on bass. Joined by co-Truckers Jason Isbell on guitar and Brad "the EZB" Morgan on drums, they tore through solid Southern rockers "Sink Hole" and "The Day John Henry Died" before being joined by Marty Stuart on mandolin for "Heathens." Ex-Black Crowes guitarist Audley Freed emerged with a blistering solo on "Decoration Day" that led into a mountainous closing jam. Haynes then joined the fun for the set-closing heavy thump of "Lookout Mountain," adding screeching howls of sliding guitar into the Grand Canyon of deep grooves.

Dr. Ralph Stanley & Nathan Stanley :: Christmas Jam
12.17.05 :: Asheville, NC
The Mayor of Asheville came out to welcome everyone to this year's Jam and to thank the crowd for their contribution towards providing housing for less fortunate people. Haynes introduced the next set by saying how honored he was to welcome "the Godfather of bluegrass" Dr. Ralph Stanley. Joined by his grandson Nathan Stanley on mandolin and James Shelton on guitar, they opened with "Girl From the Greenbriar Shore" before Stanley's haunting a cappella take on "O Death." At a venue so used to guitar anthems and funky shakedowns, the eerie sound of one voice resonating through the hall brought a shared moment of silence throughout the crowd as they absorbed every nuance of his seasoned voice. The set rolled on with "Little Birdie" and closed with the soft and subtle sounds of "Lift Him Up, That's All."

Hess, Louis, Medeski :: Christmas Jam
12.17.05 :: Asheville, NC
One of the treats of the Christmas Jam is that the sequence of the performers isn't announced in advance. When you're at the show, you never know what to expect next. A blast of applause filled with high anticipation welcomed John Scofield & Friends to the stage. Supporting the jazz guitarist extraordinaire on this occasion was his occasional partner John Medeski from Medeski, Martin & Wood on keyboards, Andy Hess from Gov't Mule on bass, and Stanton Moore from Galactic on drums. Not bad, Mr. Scofield, not bad. They burst forth with a ferocious set of funky jazz, weaving a myriad of influences into the complex fabric of the music. The set was heavy on incendiary instrumentals like "Hottentot," "Boozer," "Gonzo," and "Cryin' Time," and then cranked up to supercharged with the addition of Haynes, saxman Ron Holloway, and legendary keyboardist Ivan Neville. Together they ran through Ray Charles's "The Night Time is the Right Time" and the Grateful Dead's eternally danceable "Turn on Your Love Light."

It was time for a deep breath after that extravaganza, so it was with perfect timing that Ray LaMontagne came out to play. His melodic singer/songwriter solo acoustic set was like a warm blanket wrapped around the crowd. His set included "Forever My Friend," "Hold You in My Arms," "Trouble," and "Jolene," and perfectly prepared the audience's aural appetite for the rockabilly country swagger of Marty Stuart.

Matt Abts :: Christmas Jam :: 12.17.05 :: Asheville, NC
Exploding through the speakers with a solo mandolin tour de force called "Streamline Lover," Stuart immediately perked up the ears of everyone in the room. "Dark Bird" was written for Johnny Cash, Stuart's old friend and neighbor, and led into a rendition of a song by one of Cash's friends, Bob Dylan's "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere." Stuart was joined for the sing-along classic by Haynes and Schools, along with Danny Louis on keyboards and Matt Abts on drums, both from Gov't Mule. The expanded group revved up to a mighty sound for the huge musical punctuation mark of "Are You Sure Hank Done it This Way," before wrapping up the set with a bouncy, jovial take on The Byrds' "Mr. Spaceman."

Casady, Diaz & Kaukonen :: Christmas Jam
12.17.05 :: Asheville, NC
Hot Tuna is a unique two-headed monster. Equally adept at both acoustic and electric settings, they present a range of options unavailable to mere mortals. The band consists of Jorma Kaukonen on guitar and Jack Casady on bass, both from the original Jefferson Airplane, along with Barry Mitterhoff on mandolin and Erik Diaz on drums. Their set was a monstrous unleashing of frantic energy, catapulting over the crowd and swirling around the room. A beautiful version of the poetic "Embryonic Journey" was a tranquil respite from the maelstrom, which otherwise unloaded songs including "Can't Get Satisfied," "Bowlegged Women," and "Come Back Baby." The set ended with Haynes helping them out on "Rock Me Baby," to a predictably awe-inspiring conclusion.

Trey Anastasio :: Christmas Jam :: 12.17 :: Asheville, NC
The following act was easily the most anticipated of the entire evening. Not since Phish's breakup 16 months ago have any of the members been billed in advance to play together. Fans have been thrilled to see them sit in with each other on any number of occasions, but never before could anyone plan on seeing it. So it was with much surprise and celebration that the names Trey Anastasio & Mike Gordon were seen on the roster. Then, just a couple of weeks before the Jam, another name was added to the bill. Joining Anastasio & Gordon would be Bill Kreutzmann, drummer from none other than the Grateful Dead themselves. For some people, this is a mere musical curiosity. For others, it is a singular moment in cultural history that cannot be missed under any circumstances. I leave it to you, dear reader, to decide for yourself the importance of such things. Suffice it to say that many in the audience had clearly chosen the latter, and so it was with great joy and relief that the audience welcomed to the stage Anastasio, Gordon & Kreutzmann, now known together as Serial Pod.

Bill Kreutzmann :: Christmas Jam :: 12.17 :: Asheville, NC
After getting their sea legs with a few minutes of exploratory jamming, they landed in a bed made many years ago by Kreutzmann and his compatriots. No one knew what to expect from this combination of musicians, but they would get their first taste with "Cumberland Blues." Kreutzmann's playing was particularly dynamic, with subtle fills and nuances peppered throughout. Anastasio was soaring and crunching in his typical "This is the most fun I've ever had in my whole life" sort of way, and Gordon was keeping the whole thing grounded with his own typically bizarre fanciful fingerwork. The familiar interplay of guitar and bass bouncing off each other brought back many memories from the pre-Coventry days, but this was something new, and it actually sounded quite ripe and juicy, especially when they launched straight into "Chalkdust Torture." Ah, now to find out what Kreutzmann does in unfamiliar territory. Well the answer was, he freaks out and triples his energy level. Kreutzmann went positively nuts on this tune, pounding the cymbals and accenting the grooves at every burst of emotion. The jam coalesced in typical Phish fashion from frenzied psychosis to spacey melodicism, and morphed slowly into an unexpected, yet expertly delivered, cover of Nirvana's "On a Plain."

Haynes & Holloway :: Christmas Jam :: 12.17.05
The set rolled on with the mighty wallop of a new song called "Wave the Ocean," which started as an instrumental behemoth, languishing deep in the bottomless musical sea, before coming up for air as a beautifully sung melodic bluegrass tune with climactic sunbursts of energy. They continued with a tasty take on Van Morrison's "Sweet Thing," which led into an extended bout of soloing. Ivan Neville then joined the band, becoming Serial Pod's first ever official guest, and helped them in a stirring, shapeshifting 19-minute version of Phish's "Waves." Neville stuck around while they embraced the catchy sing-along changes of Jimi Hendrix's "Angel" before launching into the perfect choice to close out the set, the Grateful Dead's "Loose Lucy."

Haynes & Scofield :: Christmas Jam :: 12.17.05
Christmas Jam is not known for its brevity. It was now 2 a.m., the crowd had been inside the arena for seven hours, and it wasn't over yet. (Someone wake up that guy on the floor over there, he's missing the show.) It was time for the host of the evening to bring out his own band, and it was with genuine gratitude for the entire evening that the crowd roared in applause to welcome Gov't Mule to the stage. Their set was a raging festival of electric blues and rock-solid jams. They opened with the groovy strut of "Perfect Shelter" before applying the dramatic smash of "Bad Little Doggie." A fiery run through Led Zeppelin's "Living Loving Maid" led to a guest appearance from John Medeski on a funky, amped-up instrumental Southern-rock version of Bob Marley's "Lively Up Yourself." Holloway and Neville lent their talents to a monumental "32-20 Blues," while Freed came back out to jam on Neil Young's "Don't Let it Bring You Down."

The covers continued with takes on the Beatles' "She Said, She Said" and "Tomorrow Never Knows" before guitarist Mike Barnes joined them for Temple of the Dog's "Hunger Strike" with a sprinkling of Traffic's "Dear Mr. Fantasy" thrown in for good measure. They finished the set with the chunky funk of "Thorazine Shuffle" before coming out for the encore with Anastasio, Kreutzmann, Schools, and Stuart in tow. The 17th Annual Warren Haynes Christmas Jam wrapped up with one of the most classic jam-along songs in the book, "I Know You Rider." Everyone got a turn to shine, and they left the crowd beaming and glowing as they stumbled into the 3:30 a.m. Asheville cold. Once again, Haynes had brought together an extended family for the holidays, composed of both musicians and audience members, gathering together in celebration, and all for a worthy cause. Mr. Haynes, I do believe Santa Claus himself would be proud.

"Thank you for a real good time."

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[Published on: 1/3/06]

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jameister Tue 1/3/2006 05:48PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

it was great to see mike and trey together again, especially with bill and ivan... It was the best mule set ive ever seen.over all good show after edwin and ray

Chip The Meat Wed 1/4/2006 08:32AM
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I'm torn that I couldn't make it this year. Last year was amazing. This is, without a doubt, one of the most underrated shows of the year. Asheville is a totally heady town, the pre-show jam is always ill. I HIGHLY recommend this to anyone contemplating if they should go. Even if you don't know all the bands, go. I will be there next year, I promise.

vida421 starstarstarstarstar Wed 1/4/2006 01:58PM
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Serial Pod was amazing. Straight up jamming, no visual cues just feelin it. And to my friend who enjoyed the Mule, check out one of their New Orleans, New York, Fillmore(Dever), or Warfield(San Fran)shows if you ever can. This band is very under rated. Their crowd can be a real drag, but the tunes can be amazing. Also, get a tape or the Boulder show from Feb 05', it is the best show of the new Mule.
Marty Stuart and Dr Ralph Stanley made the night complete, its to bad more people don't respect what Ray LaMontange is doing. He is a very powerful performer.

styleelongboard starstarstarstar Wed 1/4/2006 07:32PM
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what an awesome show for an awesome cause! tons of great music. it's a must be at event for me now every year. warren is such a great guy for doing this and he definitly sets the bar for other musicians to do the same in their home town. don't forget your roots. the message is in the music and the music is in the message. can't wait for next years jam. thanx to warren and his wife for all their hard work putting it together. North Carolina loves you!

NatureBoy! starstarstarstar Thu 1/5/2006 05:56AM
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ray lamontagne wasn't as well received as he should've been, but in a night of collaboration it had to be rough being the solo man. The Phish/Dead hybrid was nice, but way too mellow and spacy. I get it, it's supposed to be jammy, but I had to sit down, it was nearly 2 am, the show had been going for 7 hours, they should've kept the energy levels UP!
other than that, no complaints, Loose Lucy was SWEET, as was cumberland, and I haven't heard Chalkdust live since a show back in 97. i always missed the ones in between.
Can't wait till next year, and when Lamontagne goes back on tour.
Drove 10 hours and would do it again!

FormulaOBX Thu 1/5/2006 07:32AM
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shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh don't tell everyone how much North Carolina rocks.Lets keep it our own secret.Thanks Warren.

senorfatz starstarstarstarstar Thu 1/5/2006 08:25AM
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i was just like most of the people who went to this show, i wanted to see trey and mike with bill on stage together. and they did not disappoint in any way shape or form. serialpod was awesome, and i can only hope that they do more shows together, but i am not holding my breath on that one. but the highlight was definitely john scofield and friends. these guys were all on, i mean i was completely blown away. plus when halloway and warren came out and played some ray charles and lovelight, it was unreal. it made you forget you had been there for 5 hours. the only downer was the placement of ray lamontagne and marty stuart's set. neither were bad, and lamontagne has a great voice and can play his axe, but the whole crowd was so amped up by that point it was a big let down for like and hour! but all in all, this was my favorite christmas jam yet, and i have been all four years in the civic center. keep on doing what you are doing warren, that is why you are my favorite southern rocker, and should be an idol to musicians everywhere for what you do!

jamtort starstarstarstarstar Thu 1/5/2006 01:14PM
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Great Article Paul.. It always wonderful to read the way you put words it does more then flow... thanks for the enoyable read.....

The music was my favorite Christmas jam to date.... well may be the one about 4 years ago gave it a run for the money... But none the less its all for a great cause

earld starstarstar Thu 1/5/2006 02:44PM
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I agree with some of the writers remarks, but Serial Pod was a huge letdown for me. The dead songs were good, but throughout the rest it never seemed like Kreutzmann hit a steady groove. Also the jams between songs were kind of contrived and didn't flow well. As for the rest of the artists, Scofield and friends made the show and everything Warren touched was gold! I also am a big Ray fan but his spot was a little out of place. Would loved to have seen Little Feat again, but there's always next year.

ctom101 starstarstar Thu 1/5/2006 06:25PM
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Overall amazing jam minus ray, edwin, and truckers.Scofield/Medeski and company lit it up. Bill was a machine, Gordo grooved like he always does, Ivan put a nice touch in there, but trey... why try so hard? i guess thats just where he is with his playing, but damn.

nuts starstarstarstar Fri 1/6/2006 02:09AM
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what a great evening! had a BLAST! can't wait til next year. but ray l-whatever is horrible.not to ruin anybody elses time, but my friends and i couldn't believe he actually makes money as a musician. probably the worst performance i ever had to suffer through.

kookosflyover Fri 1/6/2006 04:11AM
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mike was great and phil was awsome trey on the outher hand, well what was up with his wierd jaw movements? does he know how 2 play anymore or does he just nooddle? warren let us know just whos show it was! mule rocked!

jcskolman starstarstarstar Fri 1/6/2006 09:31AM
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This was one of the best shows I had seen in many years. My highlight was Hot Tuna who just rocked as hard as they could. They blew me away they are so strong together that it is really blissful. I also enjoyed the Dead/Phish combo, I have seen those guys separtley well over 150 times but to have them come together and jam was great. It was spacey and the jams weren't as great as they could be but with more time together they really could have a strong force. I can't forget Ralph Stanley all the musicians came out from backstage and watched the show from the sides of the stage it was really an awsome exprience to see him like that. The show rocked!!! I can't wait to go next year~

phhil starstarstarstarstar Sun 1/8/2006 09:21PM
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this show was the highlight of my year. warren gets mad props for putting this together. not one act was bad, i just cant get over how many people hate trey. im no blind follower of quirky pop music either but why hate so much at the show? why bring your negativity to such a celebration? you didnt ruin my time if thats what you were going for. gret review, great time, see ya next year
oh yea kookosflover, phil was there? or you just dont have a clue and felt like insulting a great atrist

Ashley starstarstarstarstar Mon 1/9/2006 12:02PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

my first xmas jam and it definitely will not be my last. michael - amazing pictures from the jam! great work!

rsb8004 starstarstarstarstar Tue 1/10/2006 05:53PM
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If you weren't there (tisk,tisk), then try to imagine every great genre of music there is, then take the best musicians from each genre, put them together and let them play for eight and a half hours. That, my friends is the recipefor Christmas Jam. Truly a historical event.

ajerk Thu 1/12/2006 06:58AM
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at least there isn't any more trey-haters and the new for 2006 trey-bashing, down with trey-haters, down with trey-bashing. if you want off the bus, ring the bell and jump off. get back on the wagon with the "magic burps"

blower Fri 1/13/2006 02:48PM
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Wish I could have been there,what a great show. I have listened to most of it, very solid. Hot Tuna rocks!Hopefully, I can attend next year. Mule is on fire!

Trey haters? Trey Bashers? Get off the bus? "ajerk" Your freaking nuts man and barely literate. Get a grip.
My god. It is possible to not be impressed with a musical performance without hating someone personally.

People hammered on Ray, but no one took it personally.

thebadham starstarstarstar Sat 1/14/2006 08:19PM
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ray lamontagne was the reason i went to this show!!! he has an amazingly soulful voice that oozes with passion. it's one thing to say you don't like his music, but another to be so completely disrespectful of an artist's work--have some tact! i could have listened to him for the entire 8 hours straight.

Deadhead5877 starstarstarstarstar Mon 1/16/2006 02:11PM
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I lost my freaking mind during this show. This show was awesome the whole way through. Scofield blew me away, as did Marty Stuart, I never knew how good he was. Would have liked to have seen more of Kevn Kinney, maybe some Honeysuckle Blues with Patterson and Dave Schools. Like most people around me that night I was disappointed with Lamontagne's set, but I've since listened to the recording and he's actually pretty good. It must have just been hard to have to follow the spectecle of sight and sound that was Scofield/Medeski. Ralph Stanley was a treat, despite the technical problems. I get chills everytime I listen to 'O Death'. I think we scared the shit out of his grandson though. I got seperated from my buddy when I went to get water and spent the bulk of Hot Tuna by myself. This gave me time to reflect on all that had happened that evening and what was still to come as Hot Tuna played their hearts out across the room. This was my third post-Phish Trey show. My first was his crash and burn at the Landmark, and second was as an opener for the Stones where he was considerably better. With Serialpod he has completely redeemed himself in my eyes. Cumberland>Chalkdust was mind-numbing, and Loose Lucy was an amazing closer. By Gov't Mule I was too tired to dance and was left to just stand there an astonishment wondering how Warren can still be so damn good at 2:30 in the morning. I couldn't have asked for a better closer than I Know You Rider, 4 representatives from the 4 greatest jambands all grooving together into the wee hours of the morning. After 8 1/2 hours of dancing and singing I was ready to hit the sack, but unfortunately got lost on the drive back to the hotel and ended up half way up a mountain (don't ask). No doubt I'll me making the annual pilgrimage to Asheville for many years to come. More Marty next year!

Performance Impressions Concert Photography starstarstarstarstar Thu 2/16/2006 07:02PM
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Performance Impressions Concert Photography

This Xmas Jam once again raised the bar for one of the best shows each year. No signs of letting up, Warren Haynes hammered into the holiday season jammin with Gov't into the early morning hours. My photos and review from the 17th annual Xmas Jam are at http://www.performanceimpressions.com/XmasJam2005/WarrenHaynesXmasJam2005.html check it out